By Students of FTII
Five students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) were attacked outside of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) on Wednesday by the Akhila Bharateeya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP)
The attack took place soon after the screening of Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Jai Bheem Comrade and the performance of Kabir Kala Manch at NFAI. The programme was organized by the FTII student’s body in association with Yugpath, a youth forum based in Pune. This was the first public performance of Kabir Kala Manch after two and a half years.
The five students attacked are Shameen a second year cinematography student, Ansar Sha a third year cinematography student, Kislay a third year Editing student, Sriram Raju also a third year Editing student and Ajayan a third year Sound student.
The screening of the documentary and the performance by Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) was finalized two weeks ago. There was a request to cancel the programme from various quarters respecting the call for bandh as a mark of protest against the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dhabolkar. But Yugpath and the FTII student’s body decided to stick to their plan and go ahead with the screening and performance as a mark of respect and homage to Mr. Dhabolkar.
Around 12 ABVP members, who entered NFAI around 5 p.m., were waiting outside the NFAI premises for almost three hours. As soon as the Kabir Kala Manch Members finished their performance, the ABVP members started interrogating the FTII students and verbally accusing them of indulging in anti-national activities by calling KKM to perform in public. The FTII students’ association members retorted by saying that, we all are aware that KKM is a cultural organization and we support their performances which are anti-caste and superstition.
Hearing this, ABVP members started shouting slogans – as “Bharat Maata Ki Jai” “Vande Mataram” and “Down down Naxals.” One of the ABVP members slapped an FTII student, after which some of the other students intervened and started to cool down the situation. The ABVP then ceaselessly went on shouting slogans and took out their Orange flags that they had hidden all this while.
Looking at the tense situation within the NFAI premises, FTII students started walking outside the NFAI gate. The ABVP volunteers followed them, and as soon as the students were outside the gate around 12 ABVP volunteers attacked 4 students with the wooden base of their flags, and one student was hit on the head with a helmet. He was taken to the hospital and got a few stitches on his head.
Before the event was about to begin one police person in plain clothes was investigating the people behind this event. Later we saw the same person was mingling with the ABVP members outside the NFAI premises. And when the students were being beaten by the ABVP, they shouted for police help, but the man didn’t do anything and was just a mute spectator.
The FTII Students Association has filed a complaint against the ABVP at Prabhat Police station.
We as students of FTII don’t see this event as a stray incident. It is a much larger narrative of the rise of authoritarianism and its continuous efforts in curbing the freedom of speech and expression. Students Association of FTII is not affiliated with any political party. We are artists and filmmakers who believe in freedom of self expression through the medium of films, music and theatre. Attacking anyone who is expressing their thoughts through these media is highly condemnable. We are increasingly witnessing that any individual or organization that takes an opinion that is contrary to the mainstream, is labelled as anti-national and all efforts are taken to intimidate them which can also amount to murder, especially looking at the recent case of Dr. Narendra Dabolkar. What is more harrowing is the complete numbness of the state regarding these atrocities, where police personnel despite being present at the situations did not take any action.
We therefore demand quick action against the ABVP so that incidents like these do not occur again. We are also planning to hold a protest march against incidents like these which various cultural institutions are increasing facing.